Less than a week after Broadway’s shutdown, Seth Fradkoff, the senior vice president of publicity at United Artists Releasing, logged into Zoom and launched a class to teach kids about Broadway and raise money to support the collapsed theater industry. Since then, #Uncle Seff’s Quarantine Broadway Classes have raised more than $15,000 for The Actors Fund and $2,000 for the Broadway Advocacy Coalition.
Attracting guests like Donna Murphy, Kristin Chenoweth, Betty Buckley and Elaine Paige, Fradkoff produced six classes and taught more than 200 children in roughly 50 sessions. A year later, “Uncle Seff” is back for encore classes.
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As a film publicist, why did you leap into action to raise money for Broadway?
I have always been a theater kid, and fundraising for The Actors Fund was a natural decision. It benefits the people that I work with professionally on a daily basis, and also those who I support in the spotlight every night. It felt like the perfect marriage between my personal and my professional lives. Organizing the classes almost felt like going to the theater for me. It filled that void.
What can Broadway teach kids about our times?
It’s eye-opening to see children respond to stories told onstage. Children, like all of us, were craving some sort of culture. As an inroad for children to understand other people and what other people go through, theater was a good way of teaching about the pandemic. After the murder of George Floyd, I put together a class to celebrate Black Broadway. I wanted kids to watch great performances celebrating Black Americans, like “The Wiz” and “Jelly’s Last Jam.”
Did you have a favorite guest?
In a stroke of 14-year-old Seth’s head blowing off his head, a video of Elaine Paige came through my inbox. I did a double take. And I got emotional. I’m a theater kid, and Broadway folks get theater folks.
Have fundraisers like yours strengthened a sense of community on Broadway—as well as Broadway’s need to advocate for itself?
Yes, absolutely. At a very young age I was told that theater was very important. These performers are important. The woman who shows you to your seat is important. This is how they make their livelihood. That lightning-in-a-bottle feeling you get when you leave a theater is something the people inside have given you. It’s something you can’t—and we won’t—deny.
Will you continue your classes, even after Broadway opens?
My hope is that this series can live on somehow, even if it’s two classes a year. When things reopen, there’s even opportunity to do this in person. Theater unlocks a new world for kids. I realized maybe that’s why, when I was a kid, shows had such an effect on me. To see children responding to, loving theater—even over a screen—gives me hope. And Broadway has always given me hope.
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